As a bittersweet farewell to one of the most tumultuous years in automotive history, RideLust presents to you a re-cap of all the biggest industry events in 2009…and a few that slipped in under editorial bias.
Rick Wagoner, Bob Nardelli, and Alan Mulally spent weeks feigning humility and destitution in three piece Brooks Brothers suits in an attempt to wrangle a billion-dollar loan from an apparently benevolent Uncle Sam. Eventually, the government acquiesced and agreed to bail out both General Motors and Chrysler so as not to interrupt their steady production of poorly built, aesthetically unappealing vehicles.
Stunt double Ben Collins outed himself as Top Gear’s infamous masked driver, The Stig, potentially blowing the sweetest gig on planet Earth. Rather than kill him off, Top Gear attempted to counter the rumors by fingering (::snicker::) legendary racer Michael Schumacher as The Stig. Gearheads in America with an Internet connection that’s too slow to cope with downloading the weekly BBC broadcast still don’t give a rat’s ass.
There was some sort of F1 scandal involving Renault intentionally throwing the Singapore Gran Prix, but we were too immersed in our rally obsession to care. Just Google it or something.
As per their plan to cut costs and pretend to pay back taxpayers, GM made the logical decision to axe one of the only remaining brands that consumers still cared about, Pontiac. Shortly after the announcement, rumors began to circulate that the late John DeLorean’s company was interested in purchasing the rights to produce the Pontiac Solstice. The idea, much like the DMC-12, was short lived.
Drawing heavily from the blatantly phallic styling of the Ambiguously Gay Duo’s car, Porsche released it’s first 4-door sedan, the Panamera.
For what feels like the 10th year in a row, GM failed to launch the all-electric Chevy Volt. Reports indicate all 3 enthusiastic fans are coping well.
In an attempt to steal the allegedly sizable fan base the ever-elusive Volt has garnered, Nissan unveiled their equally unready-for-production EV, the Nissan LEAF. As quickly became the case with the Volt, no one really cares.
After muscling a disgraced Rick Wagoner from his position, GM CEO Fritz Henderson found himself on the receiving end of a nasty blow from karma when he was unexpectedly forced to resign after less than a year of service. Immediately following the announcement, his 20-something daughter Sarah Henderson took to Facebook, providing days of gossip fodder with her caps-locked, obscenity-filled defense of her father’s unremarkable stint with The General.
Although arguably destined to be a success in the long run, Cash For Clunkers proved treacherous to September car sales and dealer temperaments everywhere. In truly bureaucratic fashion, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of dealer rebates were caught up in red tape for much longer than expected and, thanks to a gross ignorance of performance and quality, at least one 300ZX was clunked in favor of a 2010 Chrysler Sebring. It was a very dark time for the automotive community.
Citing the worsening global economy and the need for budget cutbacks, Toyota withdrew participation from F1, cruelly crushing the vain hope of fanboys everywhere that Toyota’s race-bred technology would eventually find its way into their excruciatingly boring production vehicles.
In a stark break with the Detroit Three’s storied business philosophy, Ford began producing cars that people actually enjoy driving. In one of the biggest upsets of the year, the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid all but completely usurped the Prius as the public’s favorite hybrid.
After failing to resolve some sort of vague disagreement with Penske, GM opted to wind down the Saturn brand, finally putting an end to what was basically a 19-year identity crisis.
Unseating Ford as the reigning king of the recall, Toyota found itself in hot water in the latter half of the year when a grisly accident exposed serious engineering flaws. After feebly attempting to pin the problem of sudden, accidental acceleration on loose floor mats and receiving a class action lawsuit by way of response, Toyota demonstrated a rare act of responsibility for their subpar product by recalling 3.8 million vehicles for faulty accelerators. Of course, although this was certainly a serious problem in urgent need of an immediate resolution, some might reasonably argue that anyone who purchased a Toyota sort of deserved it anyway.
Ford went to great lengths to keep its month-long negotiations with Geely a secret, ultimately culminating in the quiet sale of Volvo in mid-December. Fortunately, traditional Volvo enthusiasts renounced their brand loyalty when the company was purchased by Ford in 1999, so few tears were shed.
Finally, just a few days before Christmas GM delivered a heartfelt gift to Sweden, announcing that purchase negotiations with Koenigsegg had fallen through and Saab would be killed off. The failure trifecta is now complete.
In conclusion, on behalf of the staff that I no longer employ, I’d like to wish the RideLust readership a very Happy New Year. Thank you sincerely for reading and please keep up the snarling hate mail, my therapist loves the business.